Where an abducting parent does not comply voluntarily the implementation of a return order will require coercive measures to be taken. The introduction of such measures may give rise to legal and practical difficulties for the applicant. Indeed, even where ultimately successful significant delays may result before the child's future can be adjudicated upon in the State of habitual residence. In some extreme cases the delays encountered may be of such length that it may no longer be appropriate for a return order to be made.
Work of the Hague Conference
Considerable attention has been paid to the issue of enforcement at the Special Commissions convened to review the operation of the Hague Convention.
In the Conclusions of the Fourth Review Special Commission in March 2001 it was noted:
"Methods and speed of enforcement
3.9 Delays in enforcement of return orders, or their non-enforcement, in certain Contracting States are matters of serious concern. The Special Commission calls upon Contracting States to enforce return orders promptly and effectively.
3.10 It should be made possible for courts, when making return orders, to include provisions to ensure that the order leads to the prompt and effective return of the child.
3.11 Efforts should be made by Central Authorities, or by other competent authorities, to track the outcome of return orders and to determine in each case whether enforcement is delayed or not achieved."
See: < www.hcch.net >, under "Child Abduction Section" then "Special Commission meetings on the practical operation of the Convention" and "Conclusions and Recommendations".
In preparation for the Fifth Review Special Commission in November 2006 the Permanent Bureau prepared a report entitled: "Enforcement of Orders Made Under the 1980 Convention - Towards Principles of Good Practice", Prel. Doc. No 7 of October 2006, (available on the Hague Conference website at < www.hcch.net >, under "Child Abduction Section" then "Special Commission meetings on the practical operation of the Convention" then "Preliminary Documents").
The 2006 Special Commission encouraged support for the principles of good practice set out in the report which will serve moreover as a future Guide to Good Practice on Enforcement Issues, see: < www.hcch.net >, under "Child Abduction Section" then "Special Commission meetings on the practical operation of the Convention" then "Conclusions and Recommendations" then "Special Commission of October-November 2006"
European Court of Human Rights (ECrtHR)
The ECrtHR has in recent years paid particular attention to the issue of the enforcement of return orders under the Hague Convention. On several occasions it has found Contracting States to the 1980 Hague Child Abduction Convention have failed in their positive obligations to take all the measures that could reasonably be expected to enforce a return order. This failure has in turn led to a breach of the applicant parent's right to respect for their family life, as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), see:
Ignaccolo-Zenide v. Romania, No. 31679/96, (2001) 31 E.H.R.R. 7, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 336];
Sylvester v. Austria, Nos. 36812/97 and 40104/98, (2003) 37 E.H.R.R. 17, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 502];
H.N. v. Poland, No. 77710/01, (2005) 45 EHRR 1054, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 811];
Karadžic v. Croatia, No. 35030/04, (2005) 44 EHRR 896, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 819];
P.P. v. Poland, No. 8677/03, 8 January 2008, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 941].
The Court will have regard to the circumstances of the case and the action taken by the national authorities. A delay of 8 months between the delivery of a return order and enforcement was held not to have constituted a breach of the left behind parent's right to family life in:
Couderc v. Czech Republic, 31 January 2001, No. 54429/00, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 859].
The Court has dismissed challenges by parents who have argued that enforcement measures, including coercive steps, have interfered with their right to a family life, see:
Paradis v. Germany, 15 May 2003, No. 4783/03, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 860];
A.B. v. Poland, No. 33878/96, 20 November 2007, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 943];
Maumousseau and Washington v. France, No. 39388/05, 6 December 2007, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 942].
The positive obligation to act when faced with the enforcement of a custody order in a non-Hague Convention child abduction case was upheld in:
Bajrami v. Albania, 12 December 2006 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 898].
However, where an applicant parent has contributed to delay this will be a relevant consideration, see as regards the enforcement of a custody order following upon an abduction:
Ancel v. Turkey, No. 28514/04, 17 February 2009, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 1015].
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held that the immediate enforcement of a return order whilst a final legal challenge was still pending did not breach Articles 8, 17, 19 or 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights (San José Pact), see:
Case 11.676, X et Z v. Argentina, 3 October 2000, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report n°71/00, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 772].
Case Law on Enforcement
The following are examples of cases where a return order was made but enforcement was resisted:
Cour de cassation 30/10/2008, C.G. c. B.S., N° de rôle: C.06.0619.F, [INCADAT cite: HC/E/BE 750];
H.D. et N.C. c. H.F.C., Cour d'appel (Montréal), 15 mai 2000, N° 500-09-009601-006 (500-04-021679-007), [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CA 915];
427/01/1998, 49/III/97/bufr/mour, Cour d'appel du canton de Berne (Suisse); [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 433];
5P.160/2001/min, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile); [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 423];
5P.454/2000/ZBE/bnm, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile); [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 786];
5P.115/2006/bnm, Bundesgericht, II. Zivilabteilung (Tribunal Fédéral, 2ème Chambre Civile); [INCADAT cite: HC/E/CH 840].
Enforcement may equally be rendered impossible because of the reaction of the children concerned, see:
United Kingdom - England & Wales
Re B. (Children) (Abduction: New Evidence)  2 FCR 531; [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKe 420];
United Kingdom - Scotland
Cameron v. Cameron (No. 3) 1997 SCLR 192; [INCADAT cite: HC/E/UKs 112];
Auto Juzgado de Familia Nº 6 de Zaragoza (España), Expediente Nº 1233/95-B; [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ES 899].
Enforcement of Return Orders Pending Appeal
For examples of cases where return orders have been enforced notwithstanding an appeal being pending see:
Case 11.676, X et Z v. Argentina, 3 October 2000, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report n° 11/00 [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ 772].
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held that the immediate enforcement of a return order whilst a final legal challenge was still pending did not breach Articles 8, 17, 19 or 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights (San José Pact).
Sentencia nº 120/2002 (Sala Primera); Número de Registro 129/1999. Recurso de amparo [INCADAT cite: HC/E/ES 907];
United States of America
Fawcett v. McRoberts, 326 F.3d 491 (4th Cir. Va., 2003) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 494].
In Miller v. Miller, 240 F.3d 392 (4th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 461] while it is not clear whether the petition was lodged prior to the return being executed, the appeal was nevertheless allowed to proceed.
However, in Bekier v. Bekier, 248 F.3d 1051 (11th Cir. 2001) [INCADAT cite: HC/E/USf 909] an appeal was not allowed to proceed once the child was returned to the State of habitual residence.
In the European Union where following the entry into force of the Brussels IIa Regulation there is now an obligation that abductions cases be dealt with in a six week time frame, the European Commission has suggested that to guarantee compliance return orders might be enforced pending appeal, see Practice Guide for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003.